Posts Tagged FTW

Return of the Mac

I just referenced a song in this post title that was released in 1996. FOURTEEN. YEARS. AGO.

I am SO OLD.

…anyway.

You’re probably expecting me to talk about Brendon McCullum now. You would be entirely justified in this expectation (and yes, I’m very aware of how many times I have used the word ‘expectation’ and its alternate conjugations here in the last few days, it has in fact started to lose all meaning for me) since, of course, Baz done good today. He’s been persona non grata a little bit for his decision to quit keeping, at which he is undeniably excellent, and for being all reputation and no runs of late. Going out to bat against the world’s number one Test side and scoring a shitload of runs is obviously the best way to counter this sort of thing, which is exactly what Baz did and bloody good on him for doing it.

But it’s the other Mac that has drawn my interest. The inconspicuous Mac. Mac the Lesser. Also known (by me, in my head, involuntarily, every time I see him or hear his name mentioned) as TIMMAY!*

Tim McIntosh.

Tim McIntosh is a bit of a cipher. He’s New Zealand’s Test opener, but no-one really knows anything about him – most people, even those who watch cricket regularly, probably couldn’t pick him out of a lineup. Yet in the past year he’s not done too badly – scoring 4 50s (and twice – against Australia and Bangladesh – getting agonizingly close to 100s) in addition of course to coming off a pair to score 102 and 49 against India in Hyderabad. This relative annonymity is quite possibly because unlike the Big Mac (sorry) Brendon McCullum, he isn’t exactly an electric batsman. (Cricinfo’s profile of him calls him ‘a graduate of the Mark Richardson School of Batting,’ which pretty much sums it up.) It is just so typical of the fate of guys like him that when he does something awesome, like score a century and a fifty in the same match after coming off a pair, flashier stars like Baz, Harbhajan, and Chris Gayle swoop in to eclipse him.

Not here, though. Today I celebrate the achievement of quiet, unassuming Timmy Mac. He took on the top Test side in the world on home turf with the axe hanging over his head, and if it wasn’t for him, New Zealand could well have fared far worse in this match.

A footnote: People who know me should have suspected I wouldn’t let this go unmentioned: my beloved Grant Elliott – now CAPTAIN of the Wellington Firebirds, bitches! – has just scored 122 against Northern Districts in the NZ Plunket Shield. It is possible that the percentage of my readership that cares about this is less than 3%, and that’s being optimistic, but you know what? I don’t care! GO GRANT ELLIOTT! WHOO!

 

*I know, I KNOW. I’m a horrible person for this. Tim McIntosh is a fine upstanding and rather hot specimen of a man in the peak of physical and mental health. I AM NOT PROUD, OK?! IT IS AN INVOLUNTARY MENTAL ASSOCIATION!

 

 

 

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Five Open Letters

Dear Test Matches are Boring People:

I’m sorry. There is nothing here for you. I recommend that you seek alternate sources of amusement: maybe stare at a slowly revolving disco ball (so much SHINY! You’ll be amused for hours! Oh, wait, you don’t have hours, do you? Ok, minutes! You’ll be amused for whole minutes!), or go watch some MTV.

Dear Murali is a Chucker, Dammit! Stop celebrating him and loving him! I said STOP! People:

I’m sorry. It must be hard, living in your joyless, cobwebbed world where fun goes to die and everything is angular and narrow and unchanging. It sounds awful. But you know, most of you are really really old, so you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that the sweet release of death is likely near at hand.

Dear Pakistan Fans:

I am deeply, indescribably, bouncing-up-and-down-shrieking-nonsense-and-flinging-confetti thrilled for you. I really really am. But I am also concerned, knowing that many of you are probably still recovering from yesterday. Remember: if you are still experiencing seizures, blood rushes to the head, stomach-turning nausea and/or constriction in the chest area in 24 hours, seek medical attention without delay.

Dear Mohammed Aamer:

You are altogether adorable and delightful, and fucking hell you can bowl. May your career be long, illustrious and smiley. PS: Eat a sandwich or something. You’re clearly in great shape, but some of us are worried that if you fall over you’ll snap in two and that would be a tragic loss.

Dear Salman Butt:

Not to be a buzzkill or anything, and I want to extend my sincerest congratulations on your fabulous victory, but please, please, PLEASE don’t get ahead of yourself. The crash is going to make that one time you drank eight cups of coffee and everything was great until later that afternoon when you thought you were going to die seem insignificant by contrast. Also do not listen to Moin Khan: he means well, but the last time someone got as throughly carried away as Moin seems to have been after you won, his name was Mr. Fredricksen and he lived in a house with billions of balloons attached.

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Ah, poetry

Today was a grey day.

Literally, because the weather gods, having well and truly lost their marbles, decided that pouring rain, thunder and lightning were exactly what this corner of the Middle Eastern desert needed this week. And metaphorically, because young Shakib-al-Hasan and his valiant Bangladeshi tigers once again almost won a cricket match before having it slip away agonizingly at the last minute – this time courtesy of an England player who isn’t even English. (Although, half the England side are, you know, South African, so I’m not sure what the deal is with all the fuss being made about Eoin Morgan being Irish. I just figured I ought to mention it.) I would mention his excellent steely-nerved hundred, but I kind of wish he hadn’t made it because it was the sole reason that England ended up winning, so it may take a few days for the rawness to subside before I can appreciate it for what it was.

But, courtesy of the wonder that is Twitter, I have found the key to brightening up any day – even if you’re a Bangladeshi supporter and have had to install extra drainage on account of your house being constantly awash with your own tears, and extra handrails because the constant abrupt swinging back from the edge of victory to the grim depths of defeat is making you dizzy and prone to falling down a lot.

I have linked to Dave ‘The Bard’ Bird’s cricket poetry website already – it’s over there at the right-hand side of the homepage – but one of his more recent mad genius offerings deserves special mention because he produced it totally out of the blue and it just happened to be a tribute to one of my favourite players of all time.

I have reproduced it in full below, with Dave’s permission:

Ode to Lance Klusener

-David Bird

Klusener could whack it, yes Lance,
To spinners, down wicket, he’d dance,
No defensive tricks,
He smote them for six,
The same for the quicks without prance.

Sometimes he could bowl pretty quick,
Sometimes the batsmen he’d trick.
Gave balance to the side,
Served country with pride,
All without ever being a prick.

His best score V England, remember?
Our bowlers he got to dismember.
Zulu hit it so high
Way up into the sky,
It didn’t come down ’til November.

Dave adds, as a side note: ‘Lovely Long-Limbed Lance was, challenged only by Jonty Rhodes, my favourite South African cricketer for YEARS.’

Mine too, David. He wasn’t even second to Jonty – or anyone else for that matter – in my book. I even have the song ‘Impi’ on my iPod because of him. I may go hunt down highlight reels of him playing to help me get over the match result today.

The rest of you, get on over to David’s site and immerse yourself in mad limericky genius. Go on. Why are you still here??

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Runs, Retirements, and Some Serious TMI

Earlier today, I posted a visceral little rant against one Lalit K. Modi (you may have heard of him. Favours salmon sweaters, pomposity, T20s and cold hard cash?) – or, as I now affectionately refer to him, Lord Megabucks of Crass.

I have not changed my mind about anything I said about him in the slightest, before any of you get excited (you know who you are). I just wish to counterbalance the dark taint of having him on my blog with focusing on some people who are actually worth talking about and deserving of attention. Essentially, I wanted to devote some space and throw some love to the good guys.

Grant Flower is the first of these. Back in the day he and brother Andy made a thousand journalists happy with their headline-friendly last name and combined ability when they played for Zimbabwe together, but Zimbabwe being Zimbabwe, the halcyon days soon ended, and attention shifted largely (and not undeservedly) to Andy after his and Henry Olonga’s incredible, unimaginably courageous gesture at the 2003 World Cup. Grant has for the last little while been performing to his usual high standards as a Kolpak player for Essex – until a few days ago, when he made the announcement that he would be leaving…to return to Zimbabwe and start as their new batting coach.

For having done this, he at least equals his brother in the awesomeness stakes, and I fervently hope things go well for him and the team. They could use some sunshine on the horizon after the hell that they’ve been through.

Next up is Brett Lee, who announced his retirement from Tests today for exactly the reasons you might expect – the same ones that prompted his fellow Tasman megaquick Shane Bond to do so earlier this year – all that speed does a body no good in the long run, and his simply couldn’t take it any more. I have not always been a massive fan of Lee, but I felt a pang when I heard about this, because he has been indisputably one of the greats. He’s played hard and fair, with a largely positive attitude, and managed to make himself – an Australian! – popular in India, which ranks some way above ‘scaling Mount Everest with an angry Bengal tiger strapped to your back’ on the universal scale of Things That Are Hard To Do.

As with Grant Flower, I can genuinely wish him well, because I have masses of respect for the man. Thanks for the memories, Binga.

Sachin was pretty handy with the bat today. Broke another record, apparently. Maybe more than one? I tried to find out, but Cricinfo was down for a while today for some reason. Must be technical issues.

In all seriousness, though, I wish we as a nation were capable of saluting Sachin Tendulkar’s achievements with the same grace and dignity he demonstrates while accomplishing them. The man is a colossus among giants, and the fact that so much breathless adulation over the course of two decades has not made him completely and utterly insufferable speaks volumes about his character. All you can really do is salute him, and say a quiet thank you for another incredible innings that you got to watch – no, not watch, revel in. (And you can hope that asshats like the Shiv Sena and the aforementioned Lord Megabucks don’t try to co-opt his performance for their own ugly, small-minded ends, but that might just be too much to hope for, sadly.)

Finally, just so that this post doesn’t become too serious (I hear the mournful trumpets playing already); we switch from the sublime to the utterly ridiculous, with this little pearl from Shane Warne:

Getting up in the morning and putting on a pair of underpants is important for me. And I think a lot of people think like that.

Oh, Shane, I love when you give me little presents like this. Don’t ever change, ya hear?

Leaving aside the fact that we’ve just heard way more than we ever wanted to know about what Shane Warne wears to bed (really, I could have happily gone my entire life in ignorance of that piece of trivia, Shane) there’s this: it’s “important” to you? Really? How so? Or do we not want to know?

It reminds me irresistibly of those mini- “essays” we had to do in primary school: ‘What are your favourite colours?’ ‘What do you do on the weekends?’ ‘What are the important things in your life?’ Presumably little Shane’s essay read something like this…

Things That Are Important In My Life:

1. Pie!

2. Mum and Dad

3. playing cricket

4. Pie Sausages

5. KNICKERS!

We can only imagine.

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The Future’s So Bright…

Not many people know that this song is not, in fact, a breathless ode to a bright future bursting with possibility and limitless potential, but rather a song about how the 80’s were very likely going to end in nuclear holocaust. That sunglasses-necessitating brightness was going to be the result of a catastrophic atomic detonation destroying all life as we know it (at which point it’s unclear how sunglasses would help all that much, but anyway. 80s rock band lyricists didn’t make their millions off the unshakeable logic of their arguments, after all.)

Despite this, it’s become the go-to anthem for those glorious, inspirational moments when boundless, exhilarating optimism seems not only forgiveable but almost imperative. Moments like the one Afghanistan – and, for the most part, their young wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad – created for themselves about half an hour ago at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, in front of what was almost certainly a small but devoted crowd of fans and almost no-one else.  Yes, they’re only Associates. Yes, they were playing Canada – hardly heavyweight opposition, certainly not in the class of Ireland or even the Netherlands. But here’s what they did: chased down a target of 494 – in a four-day match! In the second innings! – to win with less than three overs to spare.

Less than three overs.

It gets better.

The wicketkeeper I mentioned, Mohammad Shahzad? The one who won it for Afghanistan with a final score of 214 not out? He’s EIGHTEEN YEARS OLD. What were you doing when you were eighteen? Unless you were winning international matches for your country with second-innings (second-innings! The mind, it boggles) double-hundred scores while simultaneously acting as a beacon of hope and unimaginable inspiration for your horrifically war-torn and impoverished country, Mohammad Shahzad is more awesome than you by a factor too high to compute.

I’ve already written (as have others, obviously) about how incredible Afghanistan’s journey has been so far, and with how much grace and spirit they’ve handled themselves on the way up, but it deserves to be said again, and again, and again. Everyone should be talking about them. I should have made the time to go and see them in Sharjah (responsibilities be damned!…ok, maybe not. Still, I’m BITTER. What I wouldn’t have given…!) They’ve done something so spectacular that if you stuck it in an overwrought movie montage a la Chariots of Fire it would actually belong there.

Congratulations, gentlemen. I wish I had been there. Your future is really, truly, so bright at this point that it’s practically bloody incandescent. If there’s any justice, someone will find a better song, one that isn’t actually about nihilism and death, to yoink a headline from about what you’ve accomplished. This one suggested itself almost automatically, but I’ll be damned if I use it without stating categorically that I don’t wish or foresee your future being bright for all the wrong reasons, even if you are from Afghanistan and most days what seems to be in store for your country looks anything but hopeful.

Mohammad Shahzad and Mohammad Nabi: I feel priveleged to have seen you play.

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The grudge match that wasn’t

Well, a preview of it, anyway.

I went to this match, and it was amazing. What wasn’t so amazing was my laptop, which decided that it had served me faithfully for quite long enough, dammit, and it sure as hell wasn’t going to be doing that any more. My internet service provider took its side in our dispute, and cut off my internet connection to show me where I get off. (They said it was an “accident,” but I wasn’t born yesterday. I know the truth, Internet Company.)

So I’m rewriting the post I’d already written about the match, and re-uploading the 500-odd pictures I took during it, after which I will re-edit these pictures down to the few best ones and post those too. Hopefully it will be less traumatic for all concerned this time around.

The Littlest Fan

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HELL. YEAH.

While South Africa have been busy bringing India brutally and unceremoniously back down to earth, and New Zealand engaged in dismantling Bangladesh so clinically you almost expected them to be wearing lab coats over their black pajamas, the World T20 Qualifiers have been happening in the U.A.E. I’ve been carefully refraining from commenting on this, despite having paid minute attention to what’s been going on, because I desperately didn’t want to jinx the side I really, really, want to come out on top at the end of it all.

They’ve just beaten Scotland in the second of their two matches, which means they now sit at the top of the points table in Group A with a results tally of 2 matches played and 2 won (since they beat Ireland yesterday in a nailbiter of a match that I would have paid obscene sums of money to have been able to watch live in the stadium), 4 points and a net run rate of +0.675. Not at all bad for a team from a country that’s been ripped viciously apart by civil war and violent extremism, and whose inhabitants have lived as refugees for longer than most of then can remember. Yeah, I’m talking about Afghanistan. And you’d better believe that right now, that team of ragtags who started out several levels beneath the lowest rung of the ladder that is the global cricketing hierarchy are now riding the wave of their own personal fairytale.

I am beyond overjoyed. I’m fucking ecstatic.

Benji Moorehead wrote a lovely piece about the team for the Wisden cricketer a while ago, and he’s said it better than I could, so I’m just going to quote him, because it can’t be said enough or with too much emphasis:

Should Afghanistan qualify – and they are not favourites – their tale won’t suddenly become extraordinary. It is already beyond that.

Too damn right. And should they make it, as it looks like they will, I fervently hope that the sheer scale of their achievement isn’t drowned out by the bells and whistles and inane noise that will definitely surround the World T20. They deserve to be recognized, and at this point no plaudits seem too extravagant. Their story doesn’t need embellishing, or romanticizing. It’s more than good enough on its own.

Team Afghanistan, all the freaking way. Hell, I may make T-shirts.

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